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Sat, Mar

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Admittedly, I had written my column since last Sunday as with this Covid-19 pandemic, there are little to no sports to watch live on television and I am not venturing to see anything taking place locally because I try to stay away from crowds.

Instead, I was looking back at the Liverpool versus Atletico Madrid game in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 and I was focusing on some interesting post-match comments by two managers whom I have the highest respect for - Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone.

Simeone made the most telling contribution when he suggested that the tie was unfair to Liverpool as his team had 120 minutes in which to score an away goal (and we know how precious away goals are), while Liverpool only had 90 minutes to score that all-important away goal in the first leg of the tie. The away goals rule does indeed make the competition exciting but Simeone has a great point and I suppose we can all find ways to either support or disagree with him, but I am certain that it is something UEFA will look at going forward.

I went back to the column-writing board and scrapped what I previously wrote as I am in a state of shock and disbelief - it has nothing to do with the devastation Covid-19 is causing worldwide, that is bad enough; but, is Fifa trying to finally put the nail in the coffin of T&T’s football?

The headline read, “FIFA removes TTFA board, appoints normalisation committee”. Unbelievable yet true.

Perhaps David Rudder has to compose a new song alluding to this could not be football here but rather, madness. Fifa has appointed this normalisation committee due to, according to them, TTFA’s low financial management methods and massive debt. Reading on, the mighty and untouchable Fifa says the decision follows the recent Fifa/Concacaf fact-finding mission to T&T which found that the TTFA was facing a “very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity”.

This ‘normalisation’ committee now has four mandates: 1 To run TTFA’s daily affairs; 2 To establish a debt repayment plan that is implemented by the TTFA; 3 To review and amend the TTFA statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and to ensure their compliance with the Fifa statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval; 4 To conduct elections of a new TTFA executive committee for a four-year mandate.

But the burning question remains: after four years, has Fifa finally woken up and now realised that T&T’s football has been in shambles? Well, FIFA, many examples render this sudden intervention as rather peculiar. Our debt rose from $15M to $50M, how come you didn’t investigate that? The ‘Home of Football’ project which you gave a neat sum of money for and your esteemed president came here and posed with the Prime Minister and it still can’t be operationalised, how come you didn’t investigate that? Stephen Hart was fired in bizarre circumstances, why didn’t you investigate that? How come you didn’t investigate the hiring of Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet following Hart’s dismissal and his subsequent resignation after just 35 days on the job?

Fifa, how come you haven’t investigated the sharp decline in women’s football in T&T when in 2014, we played a playoff with Ecuador and were on the brink of World Cup qualification and two years later, we can’t even beat St. Kitts & Nevis? How come you haven’t investigated why the technical director was fired and hasn’t been paid multiple payments for rendered services? FIFA, why have you not investigated how coaches were appointed for various national teams and some have never been paid? How come, Fifa, you haven’t investigated why we didn’t field a team for the Olympic qualifiers? Going back to the ‘Home of Football’, Fifa, how come you didn’t know the building was uninsured and lacked statutory certifications from agencies such as the T&T Fire Service before having your president attend the ‘opening’ ceremony? How come you didn’t investigate rumours during the past year about late payments to suppliers and the non-payment of salaries to staff?

How come you didn’t investigate the claim by the executive who invited your president (and only God knows why the Prime Minister was at the opening) that the debt inherited was reduced from $30M to $18M, when in fact after the new executive told you the debt is $50M, you suddenly agree to investigate? FIFA how can this debt jump from $18M to $50M in a mere few weeks?

Fifa, can you please investigate why crowds don’t go to support T&T football anymore? At the same time, you may want to heap praise after investigating our phenomenal 15-0 win over Anguilla?

Fifa, can you investigate why a committee was formed to start a proposed T-League, an intended merger between the Pro League and the Super League - the top two professional football leagues, the committee sent in a budget and all proposals to start the league and just like that, Fifa, it was stopped and the then TTFA administration organised a "League of Champions" and it is alleged that certain clubs received bounced cheques. Please, in local parlance, “ah begging!” you, Fifa, to investigate that.

Fifa, when you investigate how the money was spent to build the ‘Home of Football’, the country would like to know how much more money is needed to complete the building to have it fully functional.

Fifa, I have lots more for you to investigate but I figure it’s a good start for your normalisation committee, but did you know that the current executive of the TTFA was duly and democratically elected at an annual general meeting (AGM) of the Association by clubs and officials who were entitled to vote? This intervention reeks of something more, to say the least.

According to one of your former vice-presidents: “Fifa is the most political organisation in the world”. I genuinely believe him.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.


SOURCE: T&T Guardian